The North Pacific Humpback Whale in Hawaii – See Them Before They’re Gone
Did you know that every winter the North Pacific Humpback Whale travels over 6,000 miles from Alaska to as far South as Hawaii to mate, birth, and nurture new calves? That’s a trip lasting anywhere from 6-8 weeks, swimming non-stop!
With the start of commercial whaling in the 20th Century, the population of the humpback whale has drastically depleted. In 1993, it was estimated that there were only 6,000 whales in the North Pacific oceans – 4,000 of which had chosen Hawai’i as their place of mating.
Humpback whale breach captured from the boat of Jonathan Davis yesterday
Now that commercial whaling has been banned internationally, and the whales are protected under the Endangered Species Act and the Marine Mammal Protection Act, that number is estimated to have risen to 21,000. Out of that estimated 21,000 whales, 10,000 are still choosing Hawai’i as their wintering grounds – granting the islands the largest seasonal population in the world!
Due to the warm water temperatures and expansive areas of shallow waters, the waters surrounding the Hawaiian Islands are one of the most important humpback whale habitats. Humpbacks prefer two major areas in Hawai’i: the four-island region of Maui, Molokai, Lanai, and Kaho’olawe, and the Penguin Band, a tongue of shallow water extending 25 miles Southwest of Western Molokai.
Within about the last 10 years, the whales have spread to the Big Island, Kauai, and Oahu, between Koko Head and Sandy Beach, and to the North Shore. More importantly, in 1992, Congress recognized the importance of this habitat and designated critical areas as the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary. Humpbacks are listed as an endangered species and are protected by both federal and state regulations.
When Are They Here?
Though sightings of these beautiful creatures can start as early as September-October, peak season is the last couple weeks of February (read: now) and all of March. There is a history of sightings recorded as late as June, but these are simply the last of those to start their journey home.
Humpback whale tail wag to say Aloha (also captured from the boat of Jonathan Davis yesterday)